By Rhonda VanCleave
If you have taught kids at church longer than 30 minutes, you’ve probably had that “what do I do next” feeling.
Can you relate to any of these?
- Adult worship goes longer than you anticipated and experience has taught you to keep the kids engaged or risk chaos. What do you do?
- Your well-planned lesson has gone great, EXCEPT it took those little geniuses only half as long to do the activity as you thought. What do you do?
- For a variety of “who saw this coming” reasons, you are asked to “do something with the kids” for a bit while (fill-in this blank with lots of “adult” reasons). What do you do?
If you’ve worked with kids at church (or plan to) these times just happen. That’s why I’ve found it is helpful (and sanity saving) to always have a few ideas “in my back pocket.” Sometimes I have a couple of resources I can grab … and sometimes I have nothing but enthusiasm. I’d love to share some of what works for me with you.
I have a variety of categories of back-pocket ideas, but in a pinch, my go-to is Bible skills for some pretty basic reasons. Just like the drills that sports teams repeat daily to train their muscles, kids who get lots of practice knowing how their Bibles are organized are much better equipped to use their Bibles when it counts. Kids who become comfortable with their Bibles won’t become the adult who panics when the Bible teacher of their small group asks them to find Habakkuk (or be tricked into looking for the book of Hezekiah like some pastors I know try to pull).
I keep a couple of resources in my room for “emergencies.” I have a set of craft sticks with the names of the books of the Bible on them. I also have a set of disposable cups, each with the name of a Bible book. How I use them is determined by the abilities of the group at the time. Here are some examples:
- Draw a craft stick from the cup. Pronounce the name. (For non-readers, pronounce the name and ask the child to repeat.)
- Draw a craft stick and name the book that comes before and after.
- Form two teams. A player from each team draws a craft stick. Ask which Bible book comes first. The team with that stick keeps both. Each stick is worth a million points!
- Sort the cups by Old and New Testament (Use a Bible contents list or poster for assistance.)
- Stack the cups by divisions
- Try to stack all 66 cups (books) in order!
But what if you have NO resources at all? Here are a few quick ideas.
- Designate one wall (direction) as Old Testament and the opposite as New Testament. Call out Bible book names and kids can point to the correct wall.
- Form a circle. Beginning with one child, do “the wave” around the circle by throwing both hands in the air and saying the books of the Bible in order. As each child does the wave, that child says the next Bible book. If kids are new to this, the group can say the Bible book names together.
- Call out different Bible stories. Kids can sit if the story is from the Old Testament or stand if it is from the New Testament. This is a good time to remind kids that the Old Testament contains stories that happened before Jesus came. The New Testament begins about the time of Jesus’ birth and beyond.
- Kids can take turns naming Bible stories. Keep count of how many are Old Testament and how many are New Testament stories.
Keep a few ideas on your phone in a list app or on a sheet of paper taped to the wall. Add ideas you discover. Don’t panic when faced with a “What do I do?” moment. Grab a back pocket idea and redeem … make the most of … each precious moment you have with kids. (Ephesians 5:16)